Guardians of the Lost Ark

Image: Ralph Bennett Crignola

A priest sits before the curtains of an inner sanctum, which in every Ethiopian church houses replicas of the tablets of Moses, supposedly kept within the Ark of the Covenant and known as ‘tabots’.

It’s not exactly the dramatic snake-filled pit in the Egyptian desert we might expect. It is a small, nondescript building next to an ancient, but plain looking church. Yet despite nearby sites of interest – the magnificent stone churches of Lalibela, the reputed bath of the Queen of Sheba, a 2,000-year-old granite stele, and an eight foot-high stone tablet engraved with three ancient languages – it is this modest chapel that gets the most attention.

For in this shrine, it is said, is the artifact that fascinated Indiana Jones and spelled doom for a host of evil Nazis in Spielberg’s much loved ‘80s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, this little house in Aksum, Ethiopia, is many believe, the home of the one true and original Ark of the Covenant.

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